Monday 14 April 2014

Classical Kicks up Max Baillie

Max Baillie - Viola

Louisa Jones -
Man Overboard
These nights are always a gamble but not much of a risk when you have some of the best performers on your team. Violinist and musical curator Lizzie Ball brought us another episode of Classical Kicks at Ronnie Scott's late last month (30/03/2014) with a squad of the highest class, who were all ready to bring their A game to the ball.

Konstantin Lapshin - piano

Upstairs at Ronnie's is a modest affair in terms of numbers and understandably it was packed out, with punters standing and a few like myself lounging against the nearest wall. I do not know whether you can have too much of a good thing but with the promise of more quality to come Dunja Lavora's 8 tune run had me thinking too early of the future. There were plenty in the crowd though who hung on her every delicate note longer than I and it is with real pleasure that we've been given permission to publish (below) the work of poet Archie Swanson who was inspired by the night's performance.

Elizabeth Ball - Violin and Vocals
Lavrova and Ball are old college friends. Where the latter has embraced the new and expansive it is the former who flies the flag for the old school with an air of nostalgia. Alongside Konstantin Lapshin on piano they made a sweeping gentle entrance with Rachmaninoff's "Hungarian Dance" but it was the third from Rachmaninoff and Heifitz, "Daisies", which thrust the first emotive lunge into this wizened heart. If nostalgia sometimes talks of loneliness then Dunja Lavrova's playing was the thinnest of smoky wisps that rose from a wooded landscape. My eyes rose too as they slowly climbed the large flowers that embossed her dress from toes to her intense expression.

James Pearson -
Despite my earlier protestation I wouldn't have cut short Lavrova and Lapshin's performance if I was to lose their final composition, Pablo Sarate's "Gypsy Airs". In their hands it was a seduction, a tease and they dangled this gift just out of my reach. I watched Dunja Lavrova as though through a plate glass window, I on the outside, transfixed by her elegance and the spark of her crackling charm within.

Emma Smith - Bass
Lizzie Ball herself grabbed the Classical Kicks baton next alongside her quartet of James Pearson (piano), Emma Smith (bass) and Pedro Segundo (drums). It is all too rare to hear her sing and she started with "Time after Time" but it was how she finished her short 3 tune set that fired this night into life. Alongside Ball's frantic and mesmerising power it was the rubbing tapping handwork of Segundo that got pulses racing on "Libertango".

Pedro Segundo
Our third act of the evening was the pinnacle. Max Baillie stood alone, with his viola and a penchant for JS. Bach. It was a freewheeling performance of skill and charisma, one that was encircling and disorientating. If I was to describe Baillie's performance as one you drifted in and out of then you would think it an insult but this was the type of spiritual experience that kept ambushing you.

Thomas Gould - Violin
Before a joyous performance by Man Overboard we were treated to a world premiere by Thomas Gould of Tarik O'Regan's "Alice Changes", a piece written especially for the thin London born violinist. Despite being influenced by Charlie Parker's "Blues for Alice" it talked more of the unease and surrealism experienced by the  younger young lady from Wonderland.

Ewan Bleach - Clarinet
Man Overboard were an artist's delight especially clarinettist Ewan Bleach whose expression looked like he had just sucked up a Sarsaparilla through his instrument. Their second of the evening "Good Morning Heartache" was a dripping delight of melancholy washes. Despite their performance overflowing with colour it was this tune in particular who's hues of Paynes Grey penetrated our blotting paper minds.

Dave O'Brien
(Man Overboard)
Upstairs at Ronnie Scott's is perfect for flirting around and meeting new people and it was ideal for Lizzie Ball's Classical Kicks with its lyrical surprises. The new discoveries kept coming thick and fast with not only Max Baillie improv twist and turns but a poetic encounter. I finish this story with the work of Cape Town scribe Archie Swanson........


Dunja Lavrova
dunja lavrova
at the claret walled bar above ronnie scott's on frith street
nature has been extremely kind to you
you must have poured yourself
into your skin-tight
gilt petalled full length black dress
golden haired with sparkling gentle grey eyes
high cheek-boned
wasp waisted
young and gorgeous

you bare your soul
as you caress your beloved pedrazzini violin
konstantin lapshin stroking the keys of the black upright piano
eyes closed
and yes
we are all bewitched 
as your serpentine body
sways like a reed
touched by the gentlest of lyrical breezes
as you coax every gamut of emotion
from the humming strings
it’s as if the music has possessed you
yet it is we that are exorcised
freed for a moment 
from out right hemisphere driven lives
to worship
at the altar
of your craft

Archie Swanson
30 March 2014


  1. As always, these musical observations and sharing of the emotions and pleasures they evoke by Alban Low are gifted performances in themselves. The addition of his fine artwork allows those of us who can not be there in person the very closest thing to a seat in the audience.